There can be some confusion about skin diseases being hair and scalp diseases, or something that can be treated topically like Psoriasis, or eczema, for example. However, sometimes, there are real skin diseases that demand greater attention and sometimes greater knowledge if they are to be identified correctly. Scleroderma is one of these diseases.
Scleroderma comes from two Greek words, skleros, meaning hard, derma, meaning skin. It is easy to confuse something like Psoriasis with Scleroderma in its early stages because there is a hardening of the skin, but Scleroderma is much different. There are two types of Scleroderma, and they, in turn have different subtypes. The two types of Scleroderma are localized and systemic, each with its own variations.
Localized Scleroderma deals only with the skin and the tissue and muscles beneath it, but systemic Scleroderma has to do with a more pronounced form that includes the skin and the underlying tissues that lead to the major organs. Of the localized Scleroderma there are two types, Morphea, (From the Greek meaning structure or form), and Linear.
With localized Morphea type Scleroderma, the early symptoms start with reddish patches that progress to patches that are made of thick skin that takes on an oval shape, which becomes an off-white color with violet edging that supports little hair growth. These patches can appear on the face, arms or legs, at first, in the early stages as a line on the arm or leg. For some, this type of Scleroderma can be disabling, but usually these symptoms will go away leaving permanent skin damage to the localized area.
In Systemic Scleroderma, the symptoms are called CREST, affecting the skin and the underlying tissues that lead to the blood vessels and major organs. CREST briefly stands for a number of different symptoms that occur with systemic Scleroderma. They have to do with calcium deposits in the connective tissues that can break through the skin in ulcers sometimes on the fingers, hands and face, and also the knees and elbows.
Another is Raynaud’s phenomenon that affects the small blood vessels in the hands and feet, which react to cold or by turning white or even blue, turning to red as the blood flow returns, leading to problems with the fingers that could leave ulcers or scarring.
The other element of CREST in Systemic Scleroderma is the Esophageal dysfunction where the tube that connects the throat to the stomach has a dysfunction in the muscles that affect the upper esophagus with problems swallowing, and the lower esophagus with heartburn.
Other symptoms of Systemic Scleroderma are tight skin on the fingers the impairs normal function, and small red spots from swelling of small blood vessels.
If you feel you have any one of these symptoms, or any of these symptoms in combination with each other, it may be one form of Scleroderma. You should immediately see you Doctor as these symptoms require professional attention.
Scleroderma has devastating effects on the hair and scalp as well in varying degrees.